III./SG 4 and the Battle for Normandy

6 June 1944

Men of Luftflotte 3! The enemy has launched the long-announced invasion. Long have we waited for this moment, long have we prepared ourselves, both inwardly and on the field of battle, by untiring, unending toil. Our task is now to defeat the enemy. I know that each one of you, true to his oath to the colours, will carry out his duty. You, who enter my sphere of command as newly sworn-in or as seasoned fighters from the hard-defended Reich, and you, untiring fighters on the Channel, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, you will all now be fighting side by side for the Fatherland, united in your sacred faith in victory. Great things will be asked of you, and you will show the greatest fighting valour. Salute the Führer. Your Commander-in-Chief, Sperrle, Generalfeldmarschall.

Before the Allied Invasion, III./SG 4 (Kommandeur, Maj. Gerhard Weyert) had been based in Southern France, looking for submarines in the Mediterranean. The 9. Staffel, for example had been "sub-hunting" from Le Luc since 18 May and was relieved by 7./SG 4 on 2 June; 8./SG 4’s Fw 190 A-6, W.Nr. 470604 had been received for repair at by AGO Cravant-Bazarnes on 15 May.

When the Allies landed, the Gruppe moved up to Laval (Mayenne), about 140 km. from the Anglo-Canadian beach heads, just within the radius of action for a bomb-carrying Fw 190. The deployment began badly when they were intercepted en route by American fighters, the unit's War Diary reporting four pilots killed and one wounded, with like casualties among ground crew being carried in the Focke-Wulfs’ rear fuselage compartments.

The Allies deciphered a succession of fragmentary reports about aircraft lost on that first day:

Fw 190 A-7

430472

98%

Obltn. Johann Pühringer

(shot up by enemy fighters on ferrying flight, 1050 hrs. near Brétigny; fire observed on impact; pilot, born 17 October 1914, killed)

Fw 190 A-6

470585

98%

Uffz. Otto Spier

(shot up by fighters on ferry flight near Laval; caught fire on impact; pilot, born 10 August 1919, killed)

Fw 190 A-6

650503

98%

Ofw. Martin Kolberg

(shot up by fighters on ferry flight near Laval; caught fire on impact)

Fw 190 A-6

150418

yellow D

Fw. Willy George

(lost by enemy action on ferrying-over flight to Nantes: further details lacking)

Fw 190 A-7

431002

35–40%

Lt. Gerhard Limberg

(shot up by enemy fighters on ferrying flight, 1050 hrs. near Brétigny; pilot, born 7 July 1920, slightly wounded)

Fw 190 A-6

650502

30–35%

Uffz. Max Rahofer

(shot up by fighters; pilot, born 1 September 1918, unhurt)

NOTE: 150418, as reported, is not a valid Fw 190 Werk Nummer and is in fact an error for 650418. Nor was this Focke-Wulf lost, as is confirmed by a Technical Intelligence report of 15 September 1944 on aircraft found at Clermont-Ferrand Among these was W.Nr. 650418, built by hmw (Norddeutsche Dornier Werk, Wismar). Accordingly to its main plate this partially dismantled aircraft was an A-8 but its compass card described it as an A-6, consistent with the MG 17 machine guns mounted over the engine and provision for four MG 151/20 cannon in the wings (both outer guns were missing, the port aperture was open but the starboard was closed with a metal plate). No centreline rack was present. The aircraft was marked brown "D", outlined in white, and had a yellow rudder. W.Nr. 650418 also featured in a report of 14 June (see below).

7 June 1944

At 07.30 hours, Laval was shot up by 12–15 Mustangs. No one was hurt but two "protective roofs" (aircraft shelters?) were burned down and four Fw 190s put out of action, one of which was:

Fw 190 A-6

470605

20%

(shot up by fighters on the ground at Laval; engine and airframe damaged)

Fw 190 A-6

470620

Black D

Obltn. Walter Dahlem

(shot up by fighters while ferrying over to Laval; pilot, born 8 July 1922, seriously injured)

[NOTE: the above was first given as 470772 but later corrected]

Nevertheless, the Gruppe went into action that day, losing two aircraft:

Fw 190 A-6

650417

yellow L

60%

(shot up during flight against the enemy)

Fw 190 A-6

470766

Uffz. Richard Wenzel

(slightly damaged after belly landing following air combat, "for re-equipping")

The 9. Staffel's strength on 7 June was reported as 12 (9) aircraft and 12 (12) pilots.

continued on next page …

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FURTHER READING

The fullest account of III./SG 4 in Normandy I know of is that given by Jean-Bernard Frappé in his La Luftwaffe face au débarquement allié (Éditions Heimdal, Bayeux 1999). The Kriegstagebuch of III./SG 4 for the Normandy campaign survives and a microfilm copy is held in the Imperial War Museum's Documents Collection.

Almost everything here is from deciphered German signals traffic and I haven't tried to incorporate material from the above sources. This is not a full account but it does have information that, so far as I know, you won't find published anywhere else.


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